Jesus: God’s Son?
In John Chapter 10 Jesus’ opponents are taking offence at his referring to himself as “God’s Son”. Up to the present day, even individuals who accept Jesus as a prophet or teacher (eg. Muslims) have difficulty with this claim. Jesus appeals to simple logic to defend his claim, citing a passage from Psalm 82, in which the Holy Spirit calls those who received God’s message (the Jewish leaders) “gods”.
His defence is brilliant:
Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods’ to whom the word of God came – and the Scripture cannot be broken – what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” John 10:34-38
Jesus’ argument is simply this: If God was willing (in the Scriptures) to refer to those who received His Word as “gods”, and the Scriptures are the truth (cannot be broken), then why did they take offence at his using a lesser term (Son) about himself? After all, he reasoned, he had been set apart for a special mission and sent from heaven to accomplish it – the evidence of which was manifest in his ability to perform miracles.
Jesus could have further defended himself by pointing out that God referred to the Jewish people as ‘sons of God’ in the Old Testament Scriptures and so his claim didn’t differ significantly from that of the Jewish people as a whole, but he did not. What is interesting to me in this passage is that Jesus’ response indicated that he understood that people would have difficulty accepting his claim and believing him. He then appealed to the evidence of his miracles, saying in effect, ‘But don’t believe me just because I say so, but because the miracles I perform reflect God’s own nature and will.’
In Scripture, the concept of ‘sonship’ was connected to the issue of obedience. This was why when the Jews told Jesus that they were ‘sons of Abraham’, Jesus disagreed, saying that if they were truly sons of Abraham they would be imitators of Abraham – which they clearly were not, since they wanted to kill Jesus (John 8:40). In effect, Jesus was saying that at the most basic level, his claim of sonship was validated by his godly action, by the fact that he was imitating God in that he was doing good. (Which is why as believers and imitators of God and Jesus Christ, we too are called sons of God in Scripture.)
This is a good starting place for people struggling to understand and accept Jesus’ sonship and deity. In the New Testament, a man named Nicodemas, who was struggling to understand who Jesus was came to him and said,”…Sir, we know that God has sent you to teach us. You could not work these miracles, unless God were with you” (John 3:2). First, we begin to understand that based on his teaching, his miracles, and his sinless life, Jesus must have been sent by God. And if he truly imitated God, then the title of ‘Son’ was not an unreasonable one for him to claim.